Luke Donald enjoyed the perfect warmup for next week’s British Open with a 9-under 63 to win the Barclays Scottish Open by four strokes, his first victory since becoming the world No. 1 in May.
The 33-year-old Englishman started the third and final round on the Castle Stuart links course a shot behind a trio of co-leaders, but collected nine birdies in a majestic bogey-free display. Donald romped home with a winning total of 19 under, ahead of Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed (62).
2011 BARCLAYS SCOTTISH OPEN
The Scottish Open is being played on the links-style layout at Castle Stuart near Inverness for the first time this week.
His eighth professional title -- and third this year -- didn’t just cement his top ranking, which he secured for the first time nearly two months ago when he beat compatriot Lee Westwood in a playoff at the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship on his last appearance in Europe.
It also provided the ideal tonic ahead of the British Open at Royal St. George’s starting Thursday, where he’ll attempt to land his first major.
"It's nice to get another victory -- I can get used to this," he said. "To do it on a links is even better and when I play well I tend to do reasonably well the next week.
"This was perfect preparation,” he added. “It doesn't get any better than going out and winning the week before. I'm going to be high on confidence."
Andersson Hed, ranked No. 128, began the third round tied for 44th at 5 under, but came from nowhere to overhaul a host of forlorn chasers behind Donald. His 10-under 62 was the lowest score of a rain-affected week in Inverness.
British Open hopefuls Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Mark Tullo of Chile finished in a seven-way tie for third. However, it was the No. 203-ranked Jamieson who sank a birdie at the last hole to grab the final qualifying spot for the year’s third major -- by virtue of having a higher ranking than Tullo by 29 places.
Colin Montgomerie had also been looking to qualify for his home major for the 22nd straight year but could only card a 70 to close in a tie for 31st at 10 under. Montgomerie briefly shared the lead in the final round after a birdie on No. 6, but dropped four shots at the start of the back nine to shatter his hopes.
No player has ever won the Scottish Open and gone on to win the British Open the following week, but Donald -- a model of consistency this year -- looks in good position to become the first.
Donald completed his second round in overcast conditions early Sunday with a second straight 67, giving him a good platform to make a charge for the title in his first Scottish Open since 2007.
With the tournament reduced to 54 holes following the wet and stormy weather that swept across Inverness on Friday and Saturday, he had to hit the ground running in the final round with Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Scots Peter Whiteford and Jamieson a shot clear.
Donald -- wearing Tartan trousers for the occasion -- did just that with a birdie on No. 3, and then drained a 40-footer across the slope on the short fourth to share the lead with Jamieson.
Two more birdies made it four in a row and, although he was briefly joined in front by joint first-round leader Tullo, the relentless Donald sank a 15-footer to pick up another birdie on No. 9. He then benefited from a free drop out of a waterlogged bunker on the 10th fairway to make a sensational up-and-down to go two strokes ahead.
He closed with three birdies over the last four holes to finish with three straight rounds in the 60s.